Thursday, May 28, 2009

Dragon Boat Festival or Duanwu (端午节)

 端午 (老舍)





Today is Duanwu((端午节), the fifth day of fifth months of Chinese lunar calendar. Some called it Dragon Boat Festival. This is the day where we eat zongzi or rice dumpling(粽子).Zongzi is a traditional Chinese food, made of glutinous rice stuffed with different fillings, which included salted duck egg yolks(咸鸭蛋), Chinese black mushrooms(香菇), red beans paste(红豆沙), mug beans(绿豆)dried red dates(jujube),dried prawn shrimps(虾米), scallops, red cooked porks,chestnuts, Chinese sausage(臘腸 lap cheong). The rice is cooked by frying the rice until it is cooked, then the cooked rice are wrapped in bamboo or lotus or reed leaves, fillings are then put inside before the leaves and tightly tied. The tied dumpling are then boiled in the wok with are covered. After several hours of boiling, the dumpling will be ready when it is cooked.The dumplings are either wrapped in triangle(normally south region) or square shape(normally north region).

There are many types of zongzi; they are Jianshui Zong(碱水粽), Bak Zong or Meat Zong, and in Malaya there are Nyonya Zong(娘惹粽). Jianshui Zong is the rice dumpling without any fillings, which is also called alkaline water dumpling, the glutinous rice was treated with with Lye, a type of caustic soda,which give the dumpling its yellow color. The dumpling was eaten as dessert,sometime with the white sugar or black sugar/coconut sugar syrup. Nyonya dumpling used pandan leaves instead of bamboo leaves, and the filling included Samba belachan, a type of dried prawn paste with chilly. There is another type called Lo Mai Kai(糯米鸡), which is popular lotus leaves wrapped dim sum.

The rice dumpling with filling in northern region style, lotus leaves wrapping with square shape. (Photo credited to Allen Timothy Chang, taken on 10-3- 2005)

The rice dumpling without fillings; treated with Lye or caustic soda. It is yellow in color, eat with sugar or coconut or black sugar syrup.(Photo credited to Benjwong, taken on 6-10-2007)

As with other Chinese food which are related to festival, there are always story behind the food. Zongzi or Rice dumpling is the food that Chinese eat during Duanwu to remember the death of patriotic poet and scholar, Qu yuan(屈原 340 BC to 278 BC) from the Kingdom of Chu(楚国), the Warring States Period(战国时代 476 BC to 226 BC). There were 7 kingdoms during the Warring States Period(燕Yuan、赵Chao、魏Wei、韩Han、齐Ji、楚Chu、秦Qin). Qu Yuan was born in Xiling Gorge area(now Hubei Province), the place had now submerged in the new dam constructed. He was the descendant of noble family and the champion of political loyalty and truth to Chu kingdom. He was appointed as the minister and counselor of the king, 楚怀王.He advocated for alliance of all smaller kingdoms of the warring period to against the strong Qin kingdom(秦国). But the King of Chu did not favor the political idea, and was influenced by other corrupted ministers who were against the idea,instead make alliance with Qin. He was sacked by the king and sent to exile in the remote Hanbei(汉北, 今安康一带及汉水上游地区), he was very upset and worried over the home country. His anger and worry was the source of inspiration for his famous and greatest poetry works, which mainly on the love for his country and his worry about his future. This was his first exile; the king called him back when the country was attacked by Qin and the country needed Qu Yuan to liaise with other kingdoms for help. In the year 299 BC, the Qin kingdom attacked Chu kingdom,the king was captured and died in Qin in the year 296 BC.The new king was also worry of Qu Yuan for advocate against Qin, Qu Yuan was sent for his second exile in the remote South(陵阳-据说是今安徽青阳县南)。. It was in his second exile that the country of Chu was defeated and fell. Qu Yuan when heard the news, was so upset , he committed suicide in 278 BC at the Miluo River(汨罗江), now in Hunan Province.

The villagers carried rice dumplings and boats to the river and tried to save him.The dumplings was threw into the river, to try to save him from being attacked by fish and dragon or evil spirit(as they believed at the time). The boats also beat drum, to frighten the fishes and the evil spirits. Today at the anniversary of the death of Qu Yuan, people eat rice dumpling and race dragon boats to remember him.

The festival was even spread to Korea and Japan.

The festival is also used to remember the other 5 people,namely (1)春秋时吴国忠臣伍子胥(Wu Zixu),first ancestor of Wu clan(伍)and founder of Suzhou city (蘇州)during the Spring Autumn period(春秋时期) of China. He was forced suicide by the king in 484 BC. (2)东汉的曹蛾,Cao Er, the 14 years old young girl of Eastern Han Dynasty who jumped into the lake to search for father's body (3)广西的陈临,Chen Lin, Guangxi official who was loved by the locals (4)越王勾践,the king who was the first to train navy by dragon boat race (5)浙江绍兴秋瑾(Qiu Jin 1875-1907),a female writer/poet and anti- Qing revolutionary who was killed by Qing government).

I still remember mum's rice dumpling, when she was young she used to prepare dumplings for us during Duanwu festival. Mum's dumplings was the best dumpling I ever tasted. Today, I remember mum, and her dumplings.....

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